Keep your browser up-to-date

Q: I would like to know if and when I should upgrade my browser? I think I have Internet Explorer 6.

Yes, you do need to keep your browser up-to-date – especially if you're running Internet Explorer 6. That program is frightfully insecure against drive-by downloads and does such a poor job of supporting Web standards that a small but growing number of sites have begun to block it.

Microsoft replaced that version with IE 7, a considerably more secure and more capable successor, in 2006. You should at least install that, although the free Mozilla Firefox 3 (www.mozilla.com) offers better performance and should be a little easier to use if you've grown accustomed to IE 6's interface.

If your PC runs Windows 2000 or an older release, you cannot install either of those browsers. Instead, get the free Opera (www.opera.com), which should also run a little faster on old computers.

When to unplug

Q: We keep our computer turned off when we don't use it (which is most of the time). Should we then turn off the power strip it's plugged into, or do we also have to unplug the power strip?

Most computers only draw a watt or so of current when turned off but plugged in, so unplugging them – by turning off a power strip or by physically removing a plug – won't save a huge amount of energy or money. It will, however, ensure that a power surge won't zap the machine. So if there's an electrical storm nearby, or if you'll be out of the house for more than a couple of days, you should disconnect the computer. Don't forget to do the same for your Internet connection: the DSL, cable or dial-up modem, as well as any router connected to it.